Best Store at Cherry Creek Shopping Center 2001 | Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
The beauty, and the bane, of shopping malls is that they're pretty much full of the same stores. (Exception: No Nordstrom at Cherry Creek. Sigh.) This fact of life means that while you know what to expect, you'll rarely encounter anything unexpected. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop is the exception that proves the rule. There are several of these shops across the country, but when you step into any one of them, in any city, you always feel like you've just made a major find. Each shop is loaded with dazzling trinkets that include reproductions of real artwork from around the world and throughout history. It's like browsing through a piece of the Met -- without the crowds, and with plenty of souvenirs for purchase.
For years we'd scrutinized the Coldwater Creek catalogue, checking out the colorful apparel and intriguing jewelry while trying desperately to avoid the treacly copy that described each item. And then Coldwater Creek opened its first Colorado store in FlatIron Crossing, doing Denver shoppers a great service in the process. While some of the clothes look, well, a tad matronly in person (can you say "shmatte"?), other Coldwater Creek mainstays move to the head of the class. The jewelry can be a real deal, and if you can't find a gift here for everyone on your Christmas list, you're not really trying.
Mountain towns have some of the nicest antique stores, with Victorian furniture you can imagine once gracing the homes of mining operators and oil barons. The problem is getting that lovely velvet 1800s settee back to Denver. But Ralston Bros. Antiques in Lyons is close enough to Longmont, Boulder, Denver and parts in between that you can easily return with a truck if you find something you simply must have -- say, a beautiful vanity (they just don't make 'em like this anymore) or an old four-poster bed. The store's owners are flexible and will arrange to be there during off-hours so you can pick up your purchase at your convenience. And since it's on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, you can drive up to hear the elk bugle, outfit your living room, and still be home in time for dinner.

The first stop before restoring an old Denver home -- or adding vintage touches to a new house -- should be Architectural Salvage. The smallest but often hardest-to-find details for a home renovation project are stocked here: skeleton locks and keys, antique glass doorknobs and bronze door hinges, and numerous pieces of restoration hardware. And there are bigger, more expensive items for those who are redoing an entire house: century-old wood doors, mantlepieces and stained and leaded-glass windows.

Long before drugs became, well, a topic for roundtable discussions, cultures were busy nibbling on bark, boiling leaves and trying to figure out why the human ape did what it did. Although some primitives may have bitten off more than they wanted, they also assembled a healthy dose of remedies. And while Western medicine is good, there's nothing that says you can't have a little of both. That's why Clearspring has conventional standbys such as aspirin and vitamins alongside traditional herbal remedies and natural supplements. Clearspring is also bursting with information, in part because the store's buyer learned Denverites' needs while working for more than a decade as the buyer at Alfalfa's Market. The staff also includes a doctor, an acupuncturist, a chiropractor and a nurse in addition to the pharmacist who fills your prescriptions. If you have questions, there's always someone to ask, which is helpful, because those original bush doctors don't make house calls anymore.

For people who hate anachronisms, Specialty Architectural Products is the place for historical accuracy. If you have an old light fixture that's missing a globe or a switch, don't fret. You don't have to substitute it with an old-looking new part -- or worse, a new-looking new part. Take it to the good folks at Specialty Architectural Products, who will restore it to its original splendor. The store also carries a sizable collection of Victorian and art-deco sconces, lampshades, chandeliers and floor lamps. You glow.
Miss Talulah's, a new LoDo boutique, caters to eclectic tastes that can't get no satisfaction in the chain stores choking the city. The shop is a little nook of delightful finds, from beaded lampshades and velvet baby booties to Eiffel Tower jewelry and chinoiserie. Not only does the store peddle plenty with which to decorate the house and body; it also sells goodies for the soul. Buy some Buddhist prayer stones and meditate over all the money you just spent.

Denver-based Borsellino Bags supplies tapestry bags to the stars (actress Juliana Margulies is reported to be a customer), but they'll also gladly supply them for you. And considering that tapestry bags are all the rage, these are particularly nice, coming in swingy, easy styles with rich brocaded fabrics, beaded or ribbon details, tassels or feather-boa trim. Just the kind of stuff you want hanging off your shoulder.

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